Is being an American Muslim a big part of your identity?
Yes, being an American Muslim is a big part of my identity. I am not just an American, I am also a Latina. My Latino heritage is also a big part of my identity. I was born in Newark, New Jersey. My parents were born in Puerto Rico. They instilled in me the Latino culture, language, and traditions. I am so grateful that they did this because there are so many similarities between Latino culture and Islam. After all there is Muslim history in Spain in Andalusia. Several words from Spanish derive from the Arabic such as camisa, pantalón, cacerola, tomate y ensalada. Islam does not feel that foreign to me. Alhamdullilah!
What was your first Ramadan experience like?
My first Ramadan experience was wonderful. Masha Allah! At first I doubted myself. I did not think I could fast. I thought it was impossible. But then I experienced the power of prayer and supplication (duaa). Alhamdullilah! Allah granted me ease to fast and surrounded me with Muslims that helped me. I went to many Ramadan dinners (iftars). I enjoyed the different foods and the company. I met new people. The Ramadan night prayers (taraweeh) were a spiritual euphoria which I had never experienced before. Subhana Allah! When reading or listening to Quran during Ramadan it was so much more profound. After that first Ramadan I looked forward to the next one.
What advice would you give to a convert who is experiencing Ramadan for the first time?
I would advise a convert experiencing Ramadan for the first time to make sincere supplication (duaa) and ask Allah to grant them ease, guidance and pious Muslim companions. Then take action by going to the mosque and finding convert classes. Open themselves to make friends in those classes and connect with the ones that they feel will guide them.
What would you wish Muslims who are not converts knew about your Ramadan experience?
I wish Muslims who are not converts to know that I do not have any other Muslim family but my immediate family. Which can make my Ramadan experience a bit lonely. I would ask them to please be more welcoming and open to get to know me better.
In your opinion, what should non-Muslims know about Ramadan or Islam in general?
In my opinion, non-Muslims should know that Ramadan is a very important time for us Muslim in which we strive to stay connected with our creator. That the fasting puts us in a state of appreciation and gratefulness.
What is one thing you want people to know about you?
I would prefer people to know more than one thing about me because it is hard to choose one. But if it has to be one then I want people to know that I am grateful. The most grateful that Allah chose me to accept Islam. Alhamdullilah!